I believe every leader, or person aspiring to be a leader, has a certain amount of leadership currency. Some leaders actually think their leadership currency is real currency (money). They’re wrong. You can’t buy respect, confidence, and reputation (at least not the kind that lasts) with money. But you can earn these things using the right kind of leadership currency.
My son recently had one of his baseball coaches resign from the team. The former coach stated that he didn’t feel like the players respected him. In hindsight, it appears he wasn’t spending the right kind of leadership currency necessary to earn the respect of the players. Sometimes I’m amazed at the coach who knows how to coach a sport, but don’t know much about coaching people. When a leader (or a person in a position of leadership) begins to spend the right kind of leadership currency, he or she will see their influence grow. Without it, the ability to influence others devolves into a demanding, do-what-I-say-or-else type of bossiness.
The right kind of leadership currency to spend with followers includes each of these areas:
1. Your example: This is your best tool to influence others. People do what people see. You become believable and follow-able (is that a real word?!) by the type of example you set. Your example is formed through your ability to lead yourself well before you attempt to lead others well. If you fail to provide the right example, you have less leadership currency to spend. The best leaders go first.
2. Your experience: This lets people know you’ve been here before. You can read about all kinds of situations and learn all you can from books and seminars (which I recommend!), but it’s your real-world experience that will spend well with followers. What’s interesting is how often the lessons you learn through the mistakes you’ve made will provide the best experience for you to draw from. If a leader can demonstrate a sense of humility and teach-ability in the midst of mistakes, it will gain the admiration of those who follow (and will also make mistakes). The best leaders learn from life.
3. Your excellence: This pushes others to both be and produce their best. Striving for perfection doesn’t earn the respect of followers. But encouraging others to be better, to improve, to grow, to aim higher is inspiring. If you demonstrate excellence (your example) in all you do, you’ll earn the right to expect the same in those who follow. The best leaders raise the bar.
The best part about each of these three areas is that they’re accessible to everyone. Each person can set the right example, learn from their experience, and strive for excellence. But not everyone takes advantage of these things. Why do you think that is? It’s like leaving money on the table.